First Letter From England

Yes, we made it to London! We know that we've been awfully quiet on email/phone/skype over the last 3 weeks, but we're finally getting some semblance of a normal day-to-day now. What follows are some details about where we live, what we've observed, who we've met, how the girls are doing and more. So sit back and relax (maybe get yourself a nice cuppa' tea). This is going to be a long email...

We live in a town called Woking in Surrey County. We are about 20 miles SW of London proper. So technically speaking, we are not in London. I'm commuting into downtown London where I work near Regent's Park. As an overarching generalization, the city of London is very nice. Due to an express train and our handy location close to the Woking train station, it only takes 50 minutes door-to-door for my commute. Woking is a town of about 60,000, so it's small, pleasant and fairly "English-countryside-like". The downtown (here referred to as town centre) isn't particularly scenic, but we all agree that we're comfortable here.

One fun detail about Woking - it is where the Martians landed in H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds (which explains the presence of a totally incongruent and curious 20 foot silver spider-like structure located in the middle of town). And further back: in 1497 the Treaty of Woking was signed in the town by King Henry and Maximillian of Austria.

Houses in Surrey tend to be nestled along tree lined much-too-narrow streets that wind this way and that. Few roads in Woking maintain the same name for more than a quarter mile. This has made exploring around Woking (remember, with baby stroller in tow) quite a fun and sometimes challenging adventure. We feel very safe however and can access most of the town on foot including a grocery store, market, church, shopping mall and train all within 15 minutes walk. Other than figuring out how to cross busy turn-abouts with traffic going the "other way" and narrow sidewalks, we're getting the hang of it.

We have met a whole host of friendly, helpful folks here. From the staff at the hotel in which we stayed for a week before finding our home, to the neighbors all around us, to my co-workers, people have been genuinely down to earth. We've had to call in many favors too: you'll see from the photos that we didn't have so much as a chair, tea pot or mattress when we moved in (as of this writing, our goods from the US are yet 3 weeks away. We're becoming well acquainted with living on our floor). Neighbors have generously supplied us with loaner bean bag, coffee table, silverware, etc., and even toys for Lucy! The last of which has been especially welcome as Little Miss Antsy Pants has been cavorting all over the house busily trying out every new switch and valve and door handle.

Our back yard backs (here usually referred to as a garden) up against the train line (refer to picture). Fortunately most of the trains are electric so it's not too loud. Lucy used to point at them with glee as they'd pass by but now hardly notices.

We're surrounded by oak trees and, amongst others, two plants that grow vigorously here: wild black berries and stinging nettle. This is quite a conundrum: the black berries are ripening deep purple right now in copious amount... but everywhere you step off of the footpaths to get at them is this stinging nettle plant. We had never heard of stinging nettle until Erin asked a neighbor (here neighbour) why her shins were itching so badly. It turns out that this devious plant that looks exactly like lemon verbena (but with spikes) stings your legs if you brush past it and, of course, are not wearing pants (here trousers). Needless to say though, it is very green here.

We've had fun learning all the British-isms around us. We get the local paper and have yucks at the headlines – some of which we honestly can't decipher. Try this one on for size: "SLAP IN THE FACE. Fishmonger says he may shut up shop because yellow lines driving customers away." [picture of grim looking man outside of his non-descript storefront sign reading 'Traditional Fishmongers' in the background]. Now Erin and I have heard of fearmongers and hatemongers, but darned if we know what a fishmonger is and why this one is so incensed. Another fun one: the neighborhood that abuts ours is called Horsell. It is pronounced, roughly, "WHOR-zul". When we try to speak the name, we stand out like a sore thumb with our Yankee "r"s not to mention our improper emphasis on the first lurid portion of the word. Maybe Lucy will eventually learn how to say it like a proper Brit. We hear words like "lovely" and "brilliant" and "absolutely" and "virtually" used with far greater frequency than at home, and boy, try to understand the thick accent of a taxi driver here. Phew! Grocery stores in Woking have "pies" (pork, kidney, steak, curry, custard, rhubarb, etc) and puddings (desserts) of all varieties. Exactly what you'd picture traditional English comfort food to be.

The girls are getting along fine with the move – now that the jet lag has worn off and we're out of the hotel. That bit was not fun. Anyway, Ellie can now roll over and grab her toys. She enjoys bouncing in her new Johnny Jumper (thanks Aunt Susan). Lucy loves to play with her little sis. Hopefully Lucy's present definition of the word "play" though will be short-lived; it means rolling on top of her sister yelling into her ear two inches away: "Ellie! Ellie! Ellie! Play with me!! Oooh Ellie!". Unbearably cute. There is a neighborhood park just around the corner where Lucy climbs and swings whilst (just practising some British English there. And for all you fans of same: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/practice.html) Ellie sits on mom (here "mum") or dad's lap drooling with wild abandon. It seems her teeth may be coming in soon...

Lucy wishes a fond "hello" to all her little friends. She surprises us by talking about cousins or aunts or uncles or friends – but without any provoking or prodding whatsoever on our part (we don't mean that in the negative sense). We're continually impressed by her memory. That said, we'd only be too happy to receive digital pictures or letters of goings-on from y'all (thanks Keri for pix of the 2008 Trojanovich Family Picnic in Ramah, CO). We plan to post more photos of our own on our personal website or on our Kodak page. In lieu of that, we're spending increasing time on Skype using a web cam. If you don't have an account, get one and look us up! It's free and the video picture quality is generally good. Oh, we almost forgot to mention that Lucy can now make horns with her hand and sing The Eyes of Texas. Bravo little lady, bravo.

Lastly, we'll leave you with some tidbits of what we've done so far:
  • Discovered some good bed and breakfasts nearby – come visit! We do have a guest room too.
  • Found a historic town 10 minutes away complete with a castle and very good cobble stone shopping area (Guildford)
  • Been invited in to various neighbors and acquaintences houses for afternoon lunch and tea.
  • Spent a day at Wimbledon during the final week of competition. What a final match this year for the men!
  • Flew our American flag proudly on the 4th of July. Got some cheeky grins (need a translation? See subsequent posts).
  • Decided that, yes, we too think the British breakfast staple for all kids, Beans On Toast is a fine breakfast meal. As for blood pudding... not so much.
  • Visited the French Market in town where, oddly refreshing, all the vendors were in fact speaking with real, not fake, French accents. Sacre blue! Aimez-vous acheter de la confiture?
  • Eaten some fantastic Indian food. Lucy differs, but ah, she'll come around. Here Indian food is variously referred to as either "Asian food" (which seems to include any and all of China, Japan, Korea, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, etc), and "a good curry" (always a good curry).
  • Chris, I've walked through the Vauxhall and Piccadilly neighborhoods of London. Alas, I have yet to hear any Piccadilly Palare that I can identify as such. Given the precise derivation of that term, ahem, it's probably just as well. Look it up at the link provided.
  • There is a notable Polish population in Woking so fortunately we're able to find poppy seed cake, perogi, and good chlieb. We haven't identified any Slovaks yet though.
  • We actually had a guest over for dinner at our place despite the conditions (JB, brave soul). Erin served a wonderful baked chicken-- we ate it our our precious cardboard box dining cum room table. "Ellie, stop drooling on the furniture, it might cave in!"
  • Yes, it really does rain here. Rains a lot.

There's much more to tell, but we'll save it for later.

We hope this letter finds you well and miss you all. Do try us on Skype or similar.

Matthew, Erin, Lucille and Eloise Trojanovich